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Is Brandon Hyde’s job safe regardless of Orioles’ finish?

He’s a new manager, and his team is one of misfit toys. So is Brandon Hyde a lock to return, or does he face some pressure too?

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Before this season, we all said the right things. The Orioles are rebuilding. Their manager, Brandon Hyde, had never run a team before. Expectations couldn’t be lower. Even if they go 0-162, if they’re doing what they can to acquire prospects and grow young talent, the year is a success.

Well, it’s easy to say that in December. Because when the season starts and losing streaks reach double digits and no one on the mound can keep the baseball in the park, frustration builds, to the point where fans want changes just so they don’t see the same overwhelmed bunch day after day.

Is Hyde included in that group? Or does a rookie manager guiding a glorified Triple-A team get an unconditional pass for his first season?

The Orioles are positioned to finish with a terrible record again. With a winning percentage of .313 coming into Tuesday, Baltimore is on pace to go 50-112, which would be a tie for the seventh-most losses in a season. Only three of the other seven teams - a group that included the Buck Showalter-led O’s in 2018 - changed managers after their awful seasons (though one, the 1916 Philadelphia A’s, had essentially a manager-for-life in Connie Mack, and the 1962 Mets kept Casey Stengel primarily as a gate attraction).

One of those case studies actually has a lot of parallels to Hyde’s situation. In 2003, the Tigers, featuring a rookie manager in Alan Trammell but also a roster bereft of proven big-league players, went 43-119 and nearly set the record for losses in a season. Still, Detroit kept Trammell around, and in 2004 the team improved by 29 games to 72-90.

Even that comparison, though, only works so far. Trammell was a Detroit institution, one of the most popular players in team history. Similarly, if Cal Ripken Jr. were managing this Orioles team, the idea of an ouster would be absurd. Hyde doesn’t have those deep ties with the team in his favor.

What he does have, though, is a front office, led by GM Mike Elias, that is by all accounts patient, supportive and understanding. No one is under the impression that a good manager would have come in and steered this bunch to contention in his first year. He wouldn’t have had the pieces, as Hyde doesn’t now. And those expectations should get even lower - and Hyde’s chances to impress should become even easier - as the O’s start trading off their best pieces in the coming days.

Where Hyde might feel his seat getting warm, however, is regarding how his team has suffered those expected losses. The Orioles haven’t been mentally and fundamentally sound. They make errors in key moments, throw to the wrong bases, and miss cutoff men. A good manager can’t make a pitcher pitch to a 3.00 ERA or make a hitter bat .300, but he can make sure his players are prepared for the situations in which they find themselves, and are the best team fundamentally when the game is on the line.

In the few chances the Orioles have had to prove that, they’ve fallen short, sometimes comically so.

Still, the encouraging signs are there with Hyde. He never seems to lose his cool in the dugout, even in the midst of another six-, seven- or eight-run inning, and that’s important for a team made up largely of young, impressionable players. The emotion should come for the players, in the form of arguments with umpires over questionable calls, rather than against them, in the form of scowls, scoffs and, worst of all, resignation.

Hyde has also shown an ability to put his foot down when necessary. It’s clear that his preferred approach is to stay optimistic, keep the pressure off his players and let them work through their struggles, but everyone has his breaking point. On June 15, Hyde reached his, and after another mistake-ridden loss to the Red Sox, he put the cards on the table.

The Orioles were taking inventory, he said. The players were auditioning for their positions for the future, he added. It was a direct warning. Even on a last-place team, the ability to play in the major leagues shouldn’t be taken for granted, because if you can’t get the job done, someone else can.

That’s a good approach for the manager of a rebuilding team. Losses are one thing. A losing style of play, and a losing mentality, is another.

So Hyde is, in all likelihood, safe, but there are ways that can change. If the Orioles bottom out in late-August and September (think along the lines of the 2002 Orioles, who lost 32 of their last 36 games), it might be too much to ignore, particularly if there are reports of in-fighting and a toxic clubhouse culture. Those are the death knells for any manager, in any scenario. Just ask Terry Francona.

But in Hyde’s case, the Orioles were never expected to be good this year. He wasn’t hired to win with this group, he was hired to guide it along and make the most of his first managerial chance in the major leagues with a team that had ripped up the floorboards and started anew.

Whether he has a place with a team beyond the rebuild is another question. But for now, things are going according to plan - as hard as that may be for the fans watching the nightly product.